New York

Brilliant Bio from 2020 Dana Gordon Special Librarian of the Year

  • 1.  Brilliant Bio from 2020 Dana Gordon Special Librarian of the Year

    Posted 11-12-2020 20:02

    Paulette Toth:  My Brilliant Career, with Apologies to Judy Davis

    In 1977, I moved to New York City to work at the investment bank Bradford Trust Company in their investment annuity division.  Since graduating from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania (Bachelor of Arts, English) seven years previously, I had a worked at a bank and an insurance company as a problem solver in claims compensation.  I was struggling financially and spiritually, for my true passion was Continental Philosophy, which I pursued after work at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research.  I spent many hours studying at the Library there and the Library of New York University.

    It was my sister, Luann Toth, the renowned Children's Librarian and longtime editor at School Library Journal, who suggested that I pursue a degree in Librarianship.  I was skeptical, having never worked in a Library with no knowledge of Libraries other than as a student.  I decided to look into Academic Librarianship based on the possibility of working in a university library and pursuing classes for free, a benefit of working for universities at the time.  I chose Pratt Institute School of Library and Information Science (now Pratt Institute School of Information) for pragmatic reasons.  They offered evening and weekend classes.  I started Pratt as a non-matriculated student in the fall of 1978.  

    Choosing Pratt was fateful in many ways.  Pratt was a progressive school in those days.  Technology was integrated into almost every class.  We learned the Dialog database for Reference classes.  I pursued a programming class working in the computer language Basic.  I had wonderful teachers: the late Anne Kelly, Government Documents; the late Sylvia Mechanic, Business Librarianship; William Saffady, Programming.  But my most life-altering mentor was my fellow classmate, Jean Strohofer, who was the Library Director at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.  It was she who convinced me that my future was in Law Firm Libraries.  We took every law-related course offered at Pratt, and she instructed me on how they applied to Law Firm Libraries.  Then she offered me a position at Cravath as a Reference Librarian.  That was in 1980, and I have been in Law Firm Librarianship for 40 years.

    I remained at Cravath for five years where I met and worked alongside my esteemed colleague, John Fitzgerald, one of the great minds in research.  He was my true mentor then, as I learned the ropes of legal and non-legal research as well as the legal profession and our role in relation to the attorneys.  It was my great fortune to have him work for me some 15 years later at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.  We had so much in common that he became and remains a true friend of my heart.

    In 1985, I left Cravath to have my own shop.  Richards & O'Neill LLP was a small firm at the time, and I was on my own with almost no technology in-house.  I had to go into the telephone closet to search Dialog on a Texas Instruments terminal running at 1200 Baud.  The PC revolution had yet to arrive at R&O.  By the time I left 15 years later, I had established a LAN (Local Area Network) of PCs in the Library and introduced various databases which greatly enhanced the practice.  The best part of Richards was that the partners there supported me in my efforts to learn the latest technologies:  Document Management Systems, CD Rom Towers, Intranets, Knowledge Management.

    I achieved most of my knowledge of information technology during the late '80's and 1990's  by attending conferences such as The National Online Meeting and becoming active in professional associations.  LLAGNY  (Law Library Association of Greater New York) was my first exposure.  I ran for President of the association in 1991-1992 at the encouragement of Jean O'Grady, nowadays author of the Dewey B Strategic blog and Senior Director of Information, Research & Knowledge at DLA Piper.  The LLAGNY Presidency was another life enhancing experience.  I ran the educational programs and changed the governing structure along with my Board at the time.  During my tenure as President and the aftermath, I had the pleasure of working with SLA NY presenting joint meetings, most prominent of which was a workshop: It Takes a Village to Build an Intranet, 1998.

    Working with SLANew York was another opportunity to learn from amazing talented Librarians.  Lucy Lettis, then at Arthur Andersen, was President of SLA New York, and I looked up to her as a leadership model.  She would wisely advise Librarians to keep planning to a minimum, stay flexible, because things change in business all the time.  And of course, the inimitable Agnes Mattis, whose dedication to SLA and Business & Finance Librarianship are legendary.  I can see her and her husband Rick dancing at the holiday parties that made SLA such a welcoming community. The too early passing of both of them is a great loss.  

    In 2001, I began my tenure at Kirkland & Ellis LLP which continues to this day.  Again I owe my position to two mentors, John Fitzgerald and the late Elaine Sciolino.  They recommended me for the position of Library Manager and mentored me through the vicissitudes of large Law Firm life.  Elaine was the Manager of the New York Library of Kirkland whom I had met and worked alongside at LLAGNY and AALL.  She took a hiatus of 10 years to raise a family and returned to Kirkland to work for me as a Research Specialist until her sudden death in 2013.  

    At Kirkland New York I have worn many hats:  working manager, KM Advisory Team member, patent search specialist and for many years resource developer at an ever growing firm:  125 attorneys when I arrived in 2001; 700 today.  I lead a team of top-notch research professionals and paraprofessionals.  We are the only office of Kirkland Libraries who work extended evening and weekend hours.  As Associate Director of Research, I now hire and mentor highly intelligent, highly skilled individuals to provide answers to queries of the most complex and sophisticated nature.  I have built my staff almost exclusively from meetings at professional associations.  I am ever on the lookout for talent.  

    Looking at the development of Law Firm Library Services, I have seen in my past, the time when preparing carts full of case reporters for case photocopying was the most valued service on offer.  I have seen reference morph into research, by which I mean leading attorneys to resources has changed to analyzing materials and providing attorneys with an/the answer. I have seen Google become synonymous with research out in the world at large to my despair.  And now I see data-mining through the implementation of APIs (Application Programming Interface) becoming the next big thing.  Actually, I saw programs on Data Mining at the Search Engine Meeting in 2005.  Attorneys are now just catching up to us information science professionals, aka Librarians.

    Darlene Davis
    Digital Product Analyst / Product Catalog Manager
    Eversana (Contractor: Johnson & Johnson)

  • 2.  RE: Brilliant Bio from 2020 Dana Gordon Special Librarian of the Year

    Posted 11-13-2020 09:06

    What a treat it was to start the day by reading the wonderful bio of Paulette Toth!  As a LexisNexis representative for large law firms years ago, the highlight of my week was visiting Paulette and her team at the Kirkland & Ellis offices.  It is a dynamic place and I always walked away with a sense that people really enjoyed working there.  Paulette was always fair and kind to me.  Even though Lexis was not the preferred provider at that time, I always felt welcomed.  She knew that I was more librarian than sales rep!  Kirkland's Westlaw rep and I even became friends outside of the office.  Paulette's passion for librarianship is rivaled only by her passion for people and for life.  It was always fun to see Paulette's smiling face at LLAGNY parties and I know others would agree.  We need more Paulettes in this world!  I am so glad she is being honored.

    Kristi Gannon, MLS
    Director, Research
    Private Equity Group
    KPMG LLP - New York
    1350 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10019